REIT efforts to support LGBTQ+ employees are getting national recognition.
Earlier this year, four REITs were named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in recognition of their sustained commitment to corporate policies, practices, and benefits pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees.
All four REITs received 100% rankings on the HRC Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking tool. The public recognition underscores the significant steps the REIT industry is taking to embed a focus on human capital issues within broader ESG strategies.
REIT magazine asked each of the four REITs—AvalonBay Communities Inc. (NYSE: AVB), Equinix Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX), Iron Mountain Inc. (NYSE: IRM), and Kimco Realty Corp. (NYSE: KIM)— to talk about their efforts and why being committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is vital to success.
Kimco Realty Corp.
From its beginning over 60 years ago, teamwork, collaboration and inclusion have been core values at Kimco. Over the years, the company has been recognized numerous times for its unique work environment and positive culture, including the Great Place to Work recognition, all of which have been directly tied to employee sentiment through anonymous independent surveys.
And while we’re very proud of these external endorsements, we never want to get complacent. We recognize that we should always strive to improve the employee experience and be an even better company for which to work. To that end, in 2019, Kimco formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee to create company-wide awareness and involvement.
The DEI Committee is made up of employee volunteers, across all disciplines of the company, who aspire to contribute by making a difference not only in the workplace but in the communities in which we live and operate our shopping centers as well as the REIT industry generally.
From the onset, the DEI Committee set out to establish a set of goals, some internal while others external, and each one has become a guiding strategic focus in furthering our DEI programs. Among those goals was working toward achieving a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign CEI, demonstrating Kimco’s strong commitment to LGBTQ+ equality.
In reviewing the Human Rights Campaign CEI scoring criteria, our DEI team took notice of opportunities to make improvements to Kimco’s benefit programs and written policies that would signify to all associates, including those who identify as LGBTQ+, that equality exists in all aspects of employment at Kimco.
Among the changes were modifications to the definition of family under the company’s medical, dental, vision, and life insurance plans, the addition of transgender surgery as covered services under the company’s benefit plans and clarifying in writing a long-standing practice of recognizing domestic partners as spouses under the company’s leave programs.
Beyond the workplace, during Pride month in June 2021, the DEI Committee launched an external community-focused campaign focused on supporting the LGBTQ+ community. The team promoted inclusive LGBTQ+ equity messaging at key Kimco shopping centers and brought that messaging to the company’s social media channels, all of which resulted in recognition and positive appreciation in the community. The company also showed its support by making a financial contribution to the Trevor project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ children and their families.
It’s been exciting to see DEI evolve over the last several years, transitioning from what had been largely a human resources initiative to now spurring company-wide involvement as well as boardroom oversight. We’re now actively exploring DEI with an expanded group of stakeholders, starting with our supplier base. Our first step is collecting information on both self-identification and official certification for diverse-owned businesses, including LGBTQ+.
At Kimco, we’re steadfastly committed to embracing different perspectives and broadening our DEI reach such that we continue to demonstrate leadership for our associates, the communities in which we operate, our stakeholders, and the broader REIT industry. It’s through a diverse set of people that we garner diverse perspectives and grow even stronger as a company.
AvalonBay Communities, Inc.
AvalonBay is the only publicly traded multifamily REIT to earn placement on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 CEI and received a perfect score of 100. The CEI is the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ equality. We’re proud to have this external recognition and endorsement of what we, at AvalonBay, already knew—we are a company that believes equality and opportunity extends to everyone.
For example, the Associate Rainbow Coalition (ARC) was founded at AvalonBay to promote awareness, foster a welcoming community where everyone can live their truth out loud, and provide professional development for LGBTQ+ associates and allies. ARC has a national leadership team comprised of associates across the company that plans activities throughout the year to connect and support LGBTQ+ associates at AvalonBay. ARC is one of seven associate resources groups offering a supportive space for associates who share a common identity.
AvalonBay’s participation in the CEI came as a part of expanding its support of the LGBTQ+ community from one of policy and practice, to one that is also public. The CEI provides a roadmap for us to focus on the things that are important to LGBT associates, such as supportive and equal benefits, the ability to self-identify, training for all associates. Importantly, it also makes an unequivocal public statement about welcoming and celebrating LGBTQ+ people. We know overcoming silence has long been a key issue in the journey towards LGBTQ+ equality; without public support, no inclusion program is really complete.
Our efforts to join the CEI grew out of this drive for public affirmation and support for the community, started by a handful of interested and passionate AvalonBay associates. And while we may be the first publicly traded multifamily REIT on the list, this is an area we actually hope our competitors will copy. Too few companies have an official focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion. It’s our hope that more will, and we encourage any LGBTQ+ associates and allies out there looking for leadership in this area to take the first step.
Two decades ago, Equinix was founded on the principle of deepening interconnections. Today, we uphold the same belief. A company committed to connection must also be a company committed to diversity and inclusion. Our social commitments, as outlined in our sustainability report, are to build a diverse and inclusive culture where every employee can say, “I’m safe, I belong, and I matter.”
We embed diversity, inclusion, and belonging in all of our business activities and empower leaders at all levels to create the best teams where employees are doing the best work of their lives. We create new channels and on-ramps to connect underrepresented communities to meaningful opportunities at Equinix. We also bring consistency to global benefits and standards that impact the health, safety, and environments of our workers.
At the same time we support the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of all our employees by providing opportunities to help employees along their journey towards achieving optimum health and lifelong wellness.
We recognize that all Equinix employees are instrumental in helping make Equinix a best place to work. There were several groups who especially contributed to these efforts. These include our Equinix Employee Connection Networks (now nine in total), Equinix Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) and Allies Councils, senior leadership, the Community & Belonging team (which includes DIB, Wellbeing, and Community Impact), and our Pathways/New-to-career talent acquisition team.
Of course, accountability to our ongoing goals is paramount. We commit to deliver on our strategy by tracking our progress against concrete and measurable D&I metrics. Our newly developed quarterly placemats, a snapshot of the business across various metrics, provide visibility into the composition and movement at each level and in each function for racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., and for women globally. This data will equip us to take informed action. We also publish our race and ethnicity metrics externally for added accountability.
While still early in our journey, our vision remains clear: for Equinix to be a culture where every employee, every day, can truly say they belong and matter, and for our workforce, at all levels, to reflect and represent the communities in which we operate. We acknowledge that we have more work to do, and we are fully committed to advancing DIB as a critical part of our business objectives and our global commitment to protect, connect, and power a more sustainable digital world.
Iron Mountain Inc.
At Iron Mountain, it is important that we create a culture where diversity, equity, and inclusion is in our DNA, where the words we say are matched by a universal sense of belonging, where every person feels their contributions are valued, their voices are heard, and all employees have the opportunity to achieve their goals and meet the needs of our customers.
Our employees will always be Iron Mountain’s greatest asset. Without diversity of thought, insight, and experiences, we cannot possibly make Iron Mountain the best place to be and to work.
Iron Mountain operates in 66 countries and, therefore, the strength of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) is particularly important in helping to create this culture globally and hold us accountable. Our LGBTQ+ ERG not only discusses the importance of allyship and prepares employees with tools to stand up and become better allies, but they have also challenged policies around the globe. Their work is paving the way for the LGBTQ+ community and all employees at Iron Mountain.
Our leaders’ willingness to embark upon this difficult and courageous cultural transformation journey is what makes Iron Mountain’s approach to DEI unique. They understand this requires so much more than sponsoring a program or event, which are important for awareness, but don’t create lasting change. They understand we must audit our systems, processes, practices, and policies and make the changes necessary to ensure they are inclusive; to assess our demographics, attitudes, and behaviors and hold everyone accountable. Because, after all, this cultural transformation will benefit all of our stakeholders—employees, customers, investors and board members.
It is often said that by increasing the number of underrepresented groups, an organization will enjoy greater profitability. Profitability, however, is not the result of merely increasing the numbers, it is the result of creating a culture of belonging where every employee not only understands their value, but also the importance of their role to the success of the organization.
We all must also understand the importance of creating a culture that is conducive to retaining diverse talent, thereby allowing the organization to benefit from the diversity of thought, insight, perspectives, and experiences exhibited by such talent. Properly valued, this diversity will lead to innovation, continual learning, and the ability to identify how to best serve the customer, whether it’s a large-scale global REIT or a small privately owned coffee shop.